Is There A Link Between Grains And Cultural Differences?

According to the "rice theory," Asian societies evolved to be more cooperative, and Western societies more individualistic, because of the type of work needed to farm rice and wheat respectively. A recent study seems to lend credence to this theory.

What's the Latest Development?


A new study published in Science posits that values now often ascribed to Western and Eastern cultures -- for example, individualism versus cooperation -- were first formed because of the kind of work needed to grow and cultivate a particular type of grain...in this case, wheat versus rice. Study lead and University of Virginia graduate student Thomas Talhelm explains that farming rice paddies is a collective effort: "Families have to flood and drain their field at the same time. So there are punishments for being too individualistic." However, one family can farm a wheat field without much outside help.

What's the Big Idea?

The research team tested the "rice theory" on China, which has a long history of farming both wheat and rice. In psychological tests given to college students, those from the northern, wheat-growing regions tended to demonstrate more individualistic thinking, while those from the southern, rice-growing areas aligned with more collective thinking. Other theories suggest that the differences between West and East may be a result of modernization, but that doesn't explain why some of the world's most modern cultures -- Japan and South Korea, just to name two -- are also among the most cooperative.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at NPR

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Meet the Bajau sea nomads — they can reportedly hold their breath for 13 minutes

The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.

Wikimedia Commons
Culture & Religion
  • The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
  • Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
  • Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
Keep reading Show less

Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less